The Book “The Second Sex” by Simone De Beauvoir
Simone De Beauvoir is a historical figure for writing about one of the most crucial issues in society. Beauvoir’s work involves gender equality and the position of women in society. In her book “The Second Sex”, De Beauvoir presents a history of women’s position in society from a feminist perspective. This essay analyzes the book’s main points to understand the author’s perspectives and the historical nature of women’s underrepresentation in society.
De Beauvoir gives philosophical thoughts about societal beliefs on women as individual entities who demand respect and equal rights to their male counterparts. The author explains women’s position in society throughout history and gives various theories that explain the women’s treatment as the “other.” De Beauvoir uses the term ‘other’ to show the insignificance of women in society and as human beings dependent on men’s existence (Beauvoir 1212). The text provides appropriate ways of treating women in society to reduce male dominance and elevate their position in life.
Strengths of the Book
“The Second Sex” provides insight into women’s life positions throughout history, which still affects many women in society today. One of the author’s strong points states that women’s overwhelmingly strong desire to please men contributes to their predicament and otherness (Beauvoir 1219). If women realize their true potential, they could become great intellectuals and overcome the myths and psychoanalytic theories that define their otherness.
De Beauvoir’s work received much recognition as feminist literature in the 20th century. The text had a significant impact on society and women’s empowerment to have equal rights and opportunities as their male counterparts. The author sought to point out myths and theories regarding women’s inferiority that defy standard societal views about gender differences, such as cultural obligations. To date, many feminists relate their literary works to De Beauvoir’s in campaigns for equality and women empowerment.
Thesis of the Book
The central thesis in De Beauvoir’s book is the oppression of women by regarding them as second to men. Human beings live in the opposing forces of self and otherness where the subjective force, which is self’ prevails. Thus, the sense of otherness forces women to be objects of submission and dependence on men for survival. Further, De Beauvoir suggests that men are regarded as transcendent beings while women are imminent beings (Beauvoir 1212). Therefore, transcendence enables males to achieve their dreams and prospects while women are left in eternal imminence to perform repetitive duties such as childbearing, leading to stagnation in life.
A powerful indictment of De Beauvoir’s work is the idealistic view of women’s roles and femineity. The author states that a woman is not born but made through external processes which shape their femininity (Beauvoir 1216). De Beauvoir argues that women have unnatural motherly instincts and view carnal actions as brutal and narcissistic, which deprive them of their sensuality. The argument is not gender-based since sexual responsiveness depends on the union and cannot be generalized as a common trait among many individuals.
Defense of Indictment
The author validates her theories and assumptions through the experiences of various women, which separates her personal views and constructs femineity from a different perspective. 20th-century marriages were notable for having loveless unions whose primary aim was childbearing and the family bloodline continuation (Beauvoir 1218). Since De Beauvoir wrote the book during the given period, she is not guilty of the women’s terrible sexual experiences and the definition of femineity. The book’s contents cannot change after publication, and the audience should consider the period.
De Beauvoir argues that women lack freedom of expression and exercise rights due to myths and beliefs that elevate men’s dominance. The author ascribes the inadequate definition of women to their oppression and otherness position in society. For a woman to live independently, society needs to define a woman separately from their femininity roles, such as reproduction and sexuality. Further, women should come out of their traditional roles, such as dependence on men for security and economic benefits, limiting empowerment.
De Beauvoir, Simone “The Second Sex.” 1949.